Swarthmore students removed by cops for blockading Trump Hotel

Three Swarthmore College students were removed by police last week for blockading the entrance to the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

Swarthmore student Arunima Shiney-Ajay, who took part in the protest as part of a student group called “Sunrise Swarthmore” along with classmates Sophia Zaia and Gabriel Brossy de Dios, boasted of the group’s efforts to disrupt an event hosted by the Independent Petroleum Association of America (IPAA) in an email to the student body that was subsequently forwarded to the Class of 2020 by Andrew Barclay, assistant director of the Dean’s Office.

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The protest involved the students holding up banners which read “shine a light on big oil corruption” and “oil lobby money buys climate wrecking politics” while standing in front of the doors to the lobby.

They also sang to the tune of “God Bless the USA” what sounded like “you claim to be an American/but we see right through your greed/it’s killing all across the world/for that oil money, and we proudly stand up/until you/keep it in the ground/and the people of the world unite/and we are here to stay.”

The email proclaimed that the students had “shut down one of the biggest oil and gas lobby events of the year--blockading the doors right in the middle of Trump Hotel,” adding that the protesters “were threatened with arrest, and were eventually escorted out by the police.”

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Ajay went on to accuse “politicians from both the Democratic AND Republican parties” of being “bought out by corrupt fossil fuel billionaires.”

“They’ve been banned from mentioning climate change, from admitting it is real, or from pushing for any real climate progress in Washington,” she alleged. “And when they do that, they sell out all the people across the country and the world--including my family in India, farmers who can no longer farm because of climate change, including Sophia’s family in Texas, who face droughts that leave them without water to bathe or drink.”

Ajay then announced Sunrise Swarthmore’s upcoming event, called “No Fossil Fuel Launch,” which took place on Wednesday in a college classroom. She said they would be “tweeting at, texting, and calling dozens of politicians across the state, to call on them to reject donations from the fossil fuel industry. We’ll also be asking them to oppose fracking, come out against the dangerous Mariner East 2 pipeline, and support 100% renewable energy by 2050.”

Sunrise Swarthmore’s Facebook page says it is “part of a national groundswell of students, from over 600 campaigns around the world, calling on their colleges and universities to divest their endowments from the fossil fuel industry.”

“Fossil fuel corporations displace communities, pollute air and water, and fuel climate change,” the group asserts. “Though we all feel these impacts, they are disproportionately focused on poor communities and communities of color. We consider ourselves to be allies to the communities on the frontlines of the fight against mountaintop removal, hydrofracking, tar sands and off-shore oil, and climate change.”

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Mark Anskis, Swarthmore’s associate director of communications, told Campus Reform that the school is generally supportive of student protest efforts, but did not say whether Barclay’s forwarding of the email represented an institutional endorsement of the students’ actions.

“The college has a proud tradition of student engagement and activism that goes back to its Quaker founding,” he said. “We believe that our students have the right to engage in peaceful demonstration and free expression.”

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